The Seattle Sounders had been their own harshest critics over the first two months of this Major League Soccer season.
That’s saying something, because there was no shortage of criticism as the Sounders lost their first three games. But while outside observers fixated on that zero in the win column, the club continued to see flaws even when more positive results began appearing. Over a five-game cluster, the Sounders beat Montreal, Philadelphia and Columbus, and got a road draw at Houston — but players and coaches stressed that problems remained.
So that adds relevance to the Sounders’ upbeat postgame comments Saturday after their 2-0 victory over San Jose. More than any other time this season, players and coaches not only seemed happy to have won, but happy with how they won.
“I thought at times tonight our soccer was as good as it’s been this season,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought we played dangerous and effective.”
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The particular danger and effectiveness that ended up making the difference came from Seattle’s highest profile stars: designated player Clint Dempsey and homegrown forward Jordan Morris, who provided the goals.
Dempsey not only got his second goal of the season, but also found more creative combinations with his teammates. His go-ahead score capped a tag-team attack from Aaron Kovar to Morris to Erik Friberg to Dempsey, who finished from a step behind the penalty spot.
“(We) played pretty good,” Dempsey said. “Created some chances in the attacking third, kept it tight in the back. But yeah, if we can keep creating more quality chances in the attacking third, I think you will see us scoring more goals. … I still think we could have scored more than we did, but we are moving in the right direction.”
Seattle outshot the ’Quakes 15-11, and they put eight on target to just one for San Jose.
However, some of the visitors’ misses were by the slightest of margins. Goals leader Chris Wondolowski hit the left post on a penalty kick and couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a one-on-one situations against goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Simon Dawkins ricocheted a free kick down off the crossbar and up off the line, but never quite across.
“We have seen ourselves on the wrong side of those, and now we feel like we are on the right side of one,” said captain Brad Evans, who toughed out 90 minutes despite stomach issues. “We have said from Day One, those things tend to even themselves out. Maybe this was one of those games where we get a little bit lucky.”
It might be no coincidence that the Sounders also were about as healthy as they had been all season. Friberg got his first start in midfield since March 12, and his end-to-end contributions benefited Seattle’s distribution, attack and defense. Midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz might be Schmid’s only first-choice player unavailable to start. However, he was on the bench, and could be fully recovered from his quadriceps injury by Saturday when the Sounders visit FC Dallas.
And maybe he’d better be. That will mark the first of four road games awaiting the Sounders over their next five matches: at Dallas, back home May 21 against Western-leading Colorado, then cross-country dates at New England, D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.
“We know we have a really tough swing coming up,” Evans said. “…We needed to get points now to give ourselves confidence going on the road.”